A Royal Scandal (1945)

94 mins | Comedy | April 1945

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Czarina and The Czarina . An Oct 1944 NYT news item reported that the studio was going to change the title Czarina , "as it is feared too few movie patrons these days will know what a Czarina is--or was." The following written prologue appears onscreen after the opening titles: "This picture is about Catherine of Russia. Her people called her the 'Mother of all the Russias.' Her biographers called her 'The Great.' Our story takes place at the time of her life when she was not so much of a mother--But when she was especially great." The film is very loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great (1729-1796), a tempestuous, saavy monarch whose favorites sometimes obtained a significant amount of political power. According to an 11 Oct 1944 HCN article, the studio emphasized the "historical inaccuracy" of the picture in order to highlight its comedic nature.
       A Oct 1944 NYT news item noted that producer Ernst Lubitsch, who was recovering from heart problems, supervised the actors' rehearsals, while director Otto Preminger oversaw the actual filming. According to a studio press release, Lubitsch had originally wanted to direct the film as well as produce it, but was ordered by his doctors to limit his activities. According to a 6 Mar 1944 HR news item, Joseph Mankiewicz was scheduled to write the picture's screenplay. Some modern sources note that Lubitsch wanted Greta Garbo to play Catherine, even though Tallulah Bankhead had already been signed for the part. Preminger insisted that Bankhead be retained, ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Czarina and The Czarina . An Oct 1944 NYT news item reported that the studio was going to change the title Czarina , "as it is feared too few movie patrons these days will know what a Czarina is--or was." The following written prologue appears onscreen after the opening titles: "This picture is about Catherine of Russia. Her people called her the 'Mother of all the Russias.' Her biographers called her 'The Great.' Our story takes place at the time of her life when she was not so much of a mother--But when she was especially great." The film is very loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great (1729-1796), a tempestuous, saavy monarch whose favorites sometimes obtained a significant amount of political power. According to an 11 Oct 1944 HCN article, the studio emphasized the "historical inaccuracy" of the picture in order to highlight its comedic nature.
       A Oct 1944 NYT news item noted that producer Ernst Lubitsch, who was recovering from heart problems, supervised the actors' rehearsals, while director Otto Preminger oversaw the actual filming. According to a studio press release, Lubitsch had originally wanted to direct the film as well as produce it, but was ordered by his doctors to limit his activities. According to a 6 Mar 1944 HR news item, Joseph Mankiewicz was scheduled to write the picture's screenplay. Some modern sources note that Lubitsch wanted Greta Garbo to play Catherine, even though Tallulah Bankhead had already been signed for the part. Preminger insisted that Bankhead be retained, however. One modern source asserts that Lubitsch originally offered the role of "Alexei Chernoff" to Charles Boyer. Although a 25 Oct 1944 HR news item stated that Gregory Ratoff had been signed to play "a stooge" to the "chancellor," he does not appear in the completed film. John Emery was announced for the role of "Catherine's ex-lover" by a 30 Oct 1944 HR news item, but that part is played in the finished film by Don Douglas. Evelyn Mulhall, Martha Montgomery, Ellen Hall, Elaine Langan and Betty Boyd are included in the cast by a Sep 1944 HR news item, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
       According to a 9 Aug 1944 HR news item, "background scenes" for the picture were shot on location at Cedar City, UT. A 20 Aug 1944 NYT article noted that Columbia had sought an injunction against Twentieth Century-Fox to delay the start of production of A Royal Scandal , as Charles Coburn was already working in a production for Columbia, and that studio did not want him to be working on two pictures at once. Columbia dropped the threatened legal action, however, when Twentieth Century-Fox agreed to postpone its starting date, which originally had been set for 31 Jul 1944, and then 15 Aug 1944.
       Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the PCA rejected the initial draft of the picture's screenplay. On 8 Aug 1944, Lubitsch sent a rewritten draft to the PCA and asked for a prompt response, as he had had "to postpone the starting date of the picture on account of these rewrites." The PCA approved the rewritten screenplay, although PCA head Joseph I. Breen noted that "great care must be taken to avoid any offensive suggestiveness."
       After completing A Royal Scandal , Bankhead did not appear in another film until the 1953 Lester Cowan production Main Street to Broadway . The Hungarian version of Lajos Biro and Melchior Lengyel's play, A carno , was copyrighted in Budapest on 22 Nov 1912, and presumably opened in Budapest shortly thereafter. The English-language adaptation, entitled The Czarina opened in New York on 31 Jan 1922. An operetta based on the play was written by Alfred Gruenwald, Oscar Straus and Julius Brammer. Entitled The Pearls of Cleopatra , the operetta opened in Vienna on 17 Nov 1923. The play has been filmed two other times. The first picture, Forbidden Paradise , was released in 1924 by Paramount and was directed by Lubitsch and starred Pola Negri and Rod La Rocque (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.1906). The second filmed version, Catherine the Great , was released by United Artists in 1934 and was directed by Paul Czinner and starred Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Elisabeth Bergner (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.5298). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Mar 1945.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
26 Mar 45
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
11 Oct 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 44
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 44
p. 13, 17
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 44
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 44
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 45
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 45
p. 3, 10
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 45
p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
28 Apr 1945.
---
Motion Picture Daily
21 Mar 45
p. 1, 9
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Oct 44
p. 2131.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Mar 45
p. 2373.
New York Times
20 Aug 1944.
---
New York Times
8 Oct 1944.
---
New York Times
12 Apr 45
p. 19.
New York Times
17 Dec 1950.
---
Variety
21 Mar 45
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Costume jewelry
MUSIC
Orch arr
SOUND
Mus mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff tech
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
French coach
Research dir
Research asst
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Die zarin by Lajos Biro and Melchior Lengyel (Munich, Germany, 1912).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Czarina
Release Date:
April 1945
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 April 1945
Los Angeles opening: 27 April 1945
Production Date:
18 September--late November 1944
addl seq mid January 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
11 April 1945
Copyright Number:
LP13297
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
94
Length(in feet):
8,400
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10386
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Russian court is thrown into upheaval when outspoken, lusty Catherine the Great quarrels with her latest companion, Variatinsky. Although the scheming Gen. Michael Nicolai Vladimirovich Ronsky wants to install his dimwitted nephew Boris in Variatinsky's post as commander of the palace guard, and thereby gain the ability to overthrow Catherine, the czarina's crafty chancellor, Nicolai Illytch, tries to thwart Ronsky by keeping any newcomers from meeting Catherine until he can introduce her to a French ambassador, Marquis de Fleury. Nicolai hopes the marquis will convince Catherine to make an alliance with France, but his attempt to introduce the marquis to Catherine is forestalled by the sudden appearance of Alexei Chernoff, a lieutenant in the horse guards. The dishevelled Alexei describes how his fealty to his sovereign prompted him to sneak into the palace to tell her about a plot against her life, but Catherine, who already knew of the unsuccessful scheme, is more interested in Alexei's abundant physical appeal. Unaware that Alexei is engaged to her favorite lady-in-waiting, Countess Anna Jaschikoff, Catherine has Alexei installed in Variatinsky's now-empty quarters. Catherine then promotes Alexei to captain and gives him a tight, white uniform, which pleases her when he comes to her chamber that evening to report on the army. Catherine attempts to seduce the lovely but naïve Alexei, who is thrilled by the opportunity to kiss "Mother Russia." When Catherine learns that Nicolai had suggested to Alexei that he return to his camp, she is determined to have Alexei stay, and continues to promote him as the days pass. Realizing what Catherine's plans are for Alexei, Anna coldly congratulates him ... +


In the mid-eighteenth century, the Russian court is thrown into upheaval when outspoken, lusty Catherine the Great quarrels with her latest companion, Variatinsky. Although the scheming Gen. Michael Nicolai Vladimirovich Ronsky wants to install his dimwitted nephew Boris in Variatinsky's post as commander of the palace guard, and thereby gain the ability to overthrow Catherine, the czarina's crafty chancellor, Nicolai Illytch, tries to thwart Ronsky by keeping any newcomers from meeting Catherine until he can introduce her to a French ambassador, Marquis de Fleury. Nicolai hopes the marquis will convince Catherine to make an alliance with France, but his attempt to introduce the marquis to Catherine is forestalled by the sudden appearance of Alexei Chernoff, a lieutenant in the horse guards. The dishevelled Alexei describes how his fealty to his sovereign prompted him to sneak into the palace to tell her about a plot against her life, but Catherine, who already knew of the unsuccessful scheme, is more interested in Alexei's abundant physical appeal. Unaware that Alexei is engaged to her favorite lady-in-waiting, Countess Anna Jaschikoff, Catherine has Alexei installed in Variatinsky's now-empty quarters. Catherine then promotes Alexei to captain and gives him a tight, white uniform, which pleases her when he comes to her chamber that evening to report on the army. Catherine attempts to seduce the lovely but naïve Alexei, who is thrilled by the opportunity to kiss "Mother Russia." When Catherine learns that Nicolai had suggested to Alexei that he return to his camp, she is determined to have Alexei stay, and continues to promote him as the days pass. Realizing what Catherine's plans are for Alexei, Anna coldly congratulates him when he is made the new commander of the palace guards, and chastises him for being a plaything instead of a real soldier. Alexei becomes frustrated by his affair with Catherine, for although he welcomes the opportunity to be with her, he longs to be of more use to his country. While Catherine placates Alexei by allowing him to investigate the status of the country's serfs, Ronsky and his cronies try to win Alexei to their revolutionary cause. One day, Catherine learns about Alexei and Anna's engagement, and when she commands Anna to return home, Anna lashes out and tells the czarina that she is making a fool of herself with the much younger Alexei. Without revealing Anna's name, Catherine tells Alexei about Anna's harsh criticisms and he replies that such a traitor cannot be dealt with leniently. Crushed when Alexei refuses to support her after learning the whole truth, Anna agrees to leave the palace. Alexei then gets drunk with Ronsky, who has arranged for Variatinsky to return and inform the still ignorant Alexei that he is merely one in a string of Catherine's lovers. Feeling used, Alexei confronts the czarina and is heartbroken when she refuses to refute Variatinsky's charges for fear of scandal. Alexei also learns that Catherine does not even read his carefully written edicts, and so decides to cooperate with Ronsky. The chancellor, who eavesdrops on Ronsky and Alexei's conversation, pretends to ally with them, and that night, Alexei enables Ronsky's forces to take over the palace. Alexei assures the terrified Catherine that he made Ronsky promise not to kill her and instead give her to him as his share of the "loot." Catherine pleads with Alexei, promising to make him czar, but he does not capitulate. Her pleas are interrupted by the arrival of Nicolai, who engineered a counter-coup. The chancellor escorts in Ronsky, who has been arrested, and Alexei is also jailed for his part in the failed revolution. Claiming Ronsky as his share of the "loot," Nicolai makes the disgraced general act as his servant while Alexei languishes in captivity because he refuses to apologize to Catherine. Hoping to reunite Anna and Alexei, the chancellor arranges for Catherine finally to meet the smooth-talking Marquis de Fleury. While Fleury heaps praise upon the czarina, Nicolai secures a guarantee of freedom for Alexei from her, then leaves the marquis and Catherine to their new romance. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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